If you're thinking of throwing in the nine to five towel and starting your own business gig, you'll want to go over these 10 questions to ask yourself before starting a business. Enjoying visions of freedom, bulging paychecks, and being your own boss? Think carefully; there’s more to starting your own business than a investing in a new laptop and dedicated office line. Be sure to ask yourself these ten questions first:
- Do you have a plan? Topmost in the list of ten questions to ask yourself before starting a business: have you developed a strategic plan? Do you know your marketing plan, sales expectations, and operating costs? Check out the Small Business Administration for some guidance.
- Have you decided on a business structure? Corporation, sole proprietor, limited-liability corporation (LLC)—the types of business structures vary, and each offers advantages and disadvantages. You may need to consult an attorney and check the IRS website for some information on biz structure tax advantages.
- What’s in a business name? The name of your business can work with—or against—you. Too many companies have been named based on short-term vision, and five years later, “The Brass Man” no longer applies to their broad-range supply of silver, copper, and steel hardware. Be careful with your name; it’s the most powerful brand element you’ll have.
- Do you have a feast-or-famine mentality? When starting your business, it’s important to remember that the days of twice-a-month paychecks are gone. Starting your business means accepting a feast-or-famine mentality that paychecks can come at various times of the month—or sometimes none at all.
- Can you say, “Show me the money?” This is one of the ten most important questions to ask yourself before starting a business. If you complete the work satisfactorily, you should also have the ability to track and collect payment from clients in a firm yet friendly manner while sporting the you-know-whats to carry it through (ever heard of small claims court?). If you’re afraid to pick up the phone and call a client regarding a late payment, better not quit your day job.
- Can you track your hours? Tracking your tasks in an efficient time-management program can make or break your sanity on billing day. When considering the ten questions to ask yourself before starting a business, ask yourself if you’re really capable of time management. For a little help, check out some of the leading online time tracking systems at FunctionFox and Harvest.
- Can you walk and chew gum at the same time? Of course, the real question is: can you multi-task? If you’re a graphic designer and have allocated eight hours to designing a logo today, what do you do if the phone rings off the hook? Task focus is important, but sometimes you have to put down the Stylus and pick up the phone!
- Can you still “get into the office” on time? In the beginning, it’s easier than you think. Sheer excitement and lack of a commute will drive you and your fresh cup of java into the office bright and early. When things slow down, you might be tempted to sleep in or watch last night’s Lost episode well past office startup time. Don’t allow it. Those temptations can affect your success.
- Are you ready to downgrade your wardrobe? Getting dressed-up to go “to work” is now a thing of the past, though you’ll still need a few stand-bys for client meetings. Consider investing in comfortable but presentable at-home office attire, and remember: no pajamas. You don’t want to scare the UPS man.
- Can you ride the wave? Your business will have ups and downs. Before starting your business, decide if you have the flexibility to ride that roller coaster. Some days you’ll work twelve hours; some, maybe six. Be ready.
Armed with the answers to these ten questions, you'll have more than enough to chew on while considering starting your own business!
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